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Lakers go to work to get much needed win over the Suns

It wasn't easy, and it wasn't pretty, but the Lakers just got a victory against a good team on their home floor.  Considering the depths to which the Lakers have sunk in the past couple weeks, no road victory should be looked down upon.  The Phoenix Suns came in boasting impressive form, but some strong defense, combined with bouts of decent offensive execution, were enough for the Lakers to build big leads twice, and hold on to the W, 102-96.

This was one strange game.  I didn't know it was possible for games involving the Suns, but this was an ugly game, in which both teams showed a surprising level of toughness.  I don't think either team could look at this game and think they played well.  The Lakers made plenty of mistakes that might normally have cost them a victory.  They once again shot abysmally from the free throw line, 13-22 for 59%, and it was once again Pau Gasol leading the way going 1-5  from the stripe.  There were sequences when the Lakers were clearly getting out-hustled and out-worked (At one point, Pau couldn't be bothered to jump in order to stop a Phoenix lob to Louis Admundsen, and Kobe missed out on a rebound because he decided to wait until it bounced to pick it up).  They gave up 14 offensive rebounds to the Suns, despite Phoenix playing without it's starting Center.  And once again, we saw the Lakers offense look about as comfortable attacking a zone defense as a family dinner at the Woods residence.  But, (obviously since this was, in fact, a victory) there were plenty of positives too. 

The Lakers held the Suns to 15 points in the 2nd quarter, and 23 in the 4th.  To hold an offensive juggernaut like Phoenix under 100 points at home is quite the defensive feat.  The Lakers also shot the ball decently for the first time since playing the Pacers, right at 50% for the game, with 36% from 3 point range (and yes, sadly, that's a major improvement).

Kobe Bryant nearly had a quadruple double, which would be amazing if it weren't for the fact that the 4th category was turnovers.  21 points (on 16 shots), 10 rebounds and 8 assists to go with 7 turnovers.  I said at one point during the game that, besides his decent shooting, this was one of the worst games I've ever seen Kobe play.  In the end, that judgment proved to be a bit harsh, but Kobe's carelessness with the ball was a major issue, especially in the 2nd quarter when Bryant turned it over on 3 straight possessions, with a 4th just two minutes later.  On a night when everybody else seemed to be pretty locked in, it was surprising that most of the Lakers' needless mistakes came from their fearless leader.

On a much brighter note, tonight saw the return of Pau Gasol, efficient offensive weapon.  Pau was hitting all the shots that make him an impossible cover.  15 footers (the non-free throw kind), 10 foot fade aways, 5 foot hooks with either hand, it was all there for Gasol, en route to 15 points.  Andrew Bynum also took advantage of the Suns lack of a front line with 18 points on 8-12 shooting.  Combined, they provided the type of two pronged inside attack that we've been accustomed to.

In the end though, this was a victory that could easily have gone the other way.  The Lakers played with fire, launching more threes than Phoenix did, despite their recent struggles with perimeter shooting.  The Lakers were probably lucky that Phoenix shot only 29% from 3 pt range.  There were also some favorable calls for the Lakers down the stretch, though the officiating was by no means favorable to the Lakers overall for the game.  And the Lakers were given a huge gift when Alvin Gentry decided to blow his top over a non-flagrant foul call for a play in which Pau Gasol went in hard on Louis Admundsen.  Gentry picked up two technical fouls instantly, and while his dismissal from the game probably had little to do with the overall result, those two free points helped push the lead to 10 points with 5 minutes to play, and without those two points, the Lakers could much more easily have been caught.  No matter how justified Gentry feels his rage to be, he's got to be kicking himself for not keeping it under control at such a pivotal junction.

In the end, there were plenty of things not to like, but holding the Phoenix Suns to 1.02 points per posession on their home floor has to rank up there as an impressive feat.  Perhaps this can be the game that gets the Lakers going on the right track. 







































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